Liga MX Tres Puntos: America alone on top, Leon bounces back in Week 3
After Week 3 of the Liga MX Apertura, Club America stands alone atop the league table. Raul Jimenez's hat trick led America to a dominating 4-0 win over Puebla at Estadio Cuauhtémoc, which pulled them ahead of Monterrey, who finished with a scoreless tie against Santos Laguna.
Monterrey now sits in a tie for second with Atlas, who secured a 4-2 win over Chiapas.
Defending Apertura and Clausura champions Leon finally showed some signs of life this season, by earning a 4-0 victory over Monarcas Morelia thanks to a stellar offensive performance in the second half that included three goals in less than 10 minutes. On the flip side, Liga MX newcomers Leones Negros remain at the bottom of the table with zero points, but they were inactive in Week 3 after their game with Chivas Guadalajara was postponed.
Here are Tres Puntos from the weekend action in Mexico:
The Champions Are Back
After struggling during the first two weeks of the Apertura, Leon finally broke through with a dominating win over Morelia. While Morelia sits next-to-last in the league table, the 4-0 win for La Fiera was still a huge step in the right direction.
Leon had a slow start again on Saturday, but a second-half offensive explosion led to the club picking up their first win of the season, after losses to Club America and Tigres UNAM to start the 2014 campaign. Yamilson Rivera, Carlos Pena, Jose Cardenas and Miguel Sabah all found the back of the net.
Rivera broke the stalemate in the 55th minute, with a shot from outside of the box that was assisted by Cardenas. Pena added to the club's lead by beating Morelia's Carlos Rodriguez from the center of the box. Then the flood gates opened.
Cardenas added to his solid game with a goal just five minutes after Pena, before Sabah capped off the impressive offensive outburst with a right-footed shot in the 81st minute.
Perhaps even more important than the four goals for Leon was the shutout posted by Mexican-American goalkeeper William Yarbrough, whose struggles during the first two weeks were a big reason for the slow start to the season. Yarbrough seemed to find his confidence as the match went on, and he will look to keep that momentum going next weekend against Chiapas.
Watch Out For Atlas
Entering the season, Atlas was not viewed as one of the top clubs in Liga MX, but it was considered to be a promising upstart. Three weeks into the season, it looks more like a contender than anyone could have imagined.
In Week 3, Atlas brought home an impressive 4-2 win over Chiapas to go to seven points. Los Rojinegros now sit in second place, tied with Monterrey.
The Atlas defense, which is led by American fullback Edgar Castillo, put together another impressive effort. The two goals that the club surrendered were their first of the season, but the well-rounded performance from start to finish allowed the team to come out on top.
After surrendering an eighth-minute goal, Atlas found an equalizer through Arturo González off of a free kick. Los Rojinegros found themselves trailing a second time in the first half, but Rodrigo Millar tied the score at 2-2 just before the halftime break.
When Atlas came out in the second half, the club appeared to be rejuvenated and scored two unanswered goals from Luis Caballero and Enrique Esqueda, who scored on a brilliant header off of a corner, to put Chiapas away and secure the three points.
Atlas now has wins over Chiapas and Morelia, with a Week 1 draw to Tigres. The next challenge will come on Sunday, Aug. 10, against Pumas UNAM at Estadio Olímpico Universitario.
Cruz Azul Yet to Find Rhythm
Cruz Azul entered the 2014 Apertura as a team expected to challenge for the league title, but Los Cementeros were slow out of the gate with a loss to Pachuca in the season-opener and a Week 2 draw against Santos Laguna.
On Saturday, Cruz Azul matched up against another club who entered the week with just one point, Veracruz, but was still unable to earn its first win of the season, as the two played to a scoreless draw.
To make matters worse for Cruz Azul, forward Anibal Zurdo, who was subbed on in the 71st minute, was sent off in the closing moments of the game with a red card along with Veracruz's Leobardo Lopez after a scuffle. Marco Fabian, who picked up a yellow card during the match, also seems poised to be leaving Luis Fernando Tena's club for Stuttgart in Bundesliga.
Cruz Azul will need to dig deep in Week 4 if it wants to begin the climb out of the bottom third of the league table, and it will all begin with a match next weekend against Puebla at Estadio Azul.
Player of the Week: Raul Jiménez, America
Jiménez was the star of America's 4-0 win over Puebla. Before Jiménez was subbed off in the 81st minute, he was able to record a hat trick as America remained unbeaten and took sole possession of first place in the Apertura table with nine points.
The first goal for Jiménez came in the 16th minute with an unmarked header from the edge of the six-yard box. His second goal came off of a penalty in the 62nd minute to put Las Aguilas in front 2-0. After notching the assist on Oribe Peralta's goal just 11 minutes later, Jiménez piled on with another goal from the six-yard box to cap off his hat trick.
Jiménez currently leads Liga MX in scoring, with four goals through three weeks. The 23-year-old is showing why he is the heavy favorite to play alongside Giovani dos Santos in the starting XI for the Mexico national team during the next World Cup cycle, replacing club teammate Oribe Peralta.
Club America's attacking stars Jiménez, Peralta and Miguel Layun were involved in all of the goals, which bodes well for Las Aguilas as they look to win their 12th domestic title to pull ahead of rival Chivas Guadalajara for most all-time.
Paul Arriola (Tijuana) - Started on the bench and was subbed on in the 79th minute for Juan Arango. Arriola committed three fouls and received a yellow card.
Edgar Castillo (Atlas) - Castillo drew the start and played all 90 minutes. Not only did he put on a solid showing on the defensive half, but the left wingback pushed up field to get a shot on goal and created two scoring chances for Atlas in their 4-2 win over Chiapas.
Joe Corona (Tijuana) - Corona was subbed on in the 68th minute. Corona narrowly missed a header from the center of the box in the 88th minute that would have put Tijuana ahead of Tigres, 2-1. He had scored in a midweek Copa MX match a few days prior.
Greg Garza (Tijuana) - Garza got the start and played all 90 minutes. The 22-year-old left back held strong in a game where the possession was controlled 58 percent of the time by Tigres.
Hérculez Gómez (Tigres UANL) - Was on the bench, but did not play for Tigres.
Michael Orozco (Puebla) - Orozco got the start and went the distance for Los Camoteros. It was a disappointing effort from Puebla, who gave up four goals, but the American defender showcased his skills in the 30th minute with a header that challenged Club America defender Moises Munoz off of a corner.
José Francisco Torres (Tigres UANL) - Torres got the start and played all 90 minutes. Torres was finding success on the offensive half with one shot that narrowly beat Tijuana goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo and three quality balls to set up scoring chances on all three occasions.
Mexico Odds and Ends
Things got ugly when Mexico and Northern Ireland squared off in their Milk Cup Elite match on Wednesday. The two sides engaged in a brawl that resulted in three El Tri players getting sent off and one Mexico player kicking a downed opponent ... Southampton is reportedly targeting a number of Manchester United players after the club's U.S. tour, including Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez ... Mexico will play Chile and Bolivia in September friendlies ... Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa signed with La Liga's Malaga on a three-year deal ... Chivas Guadalajara vs. Leones Negros was postponed until Sept. 7 to give Chivas more time to recover from the brief trip to the U.S. for a friendly against Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga champions won the match at Red Bull Arena 1-0 on a goal by Claudio Pizarro.